Don Quixote in New York! by Robin Kello
I do not mean to suggest that Alonso Quijano, Don Quijote de la Mancha, Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance and his squire Sancho Panza were themselves spotted in on the eastern side of the isle (not to be confused with ínsula) of Manhattan earlier this month. There was, however, a staged reading at Repertorio Español on October 3rd of the Diversifying the Classics translation of Guillén de Castro’s Don Quixote. Directed by José Zayas and starring a remarkable cast of professional actors, the reading brought the play to new audiences in New York as well as far and wide through a virtual livestream. As part of a larger partnership between Diversifying the Classics and Red Bull Theatre in collaboration with Repertorio Español, the event ties in with this month’s reading of the original Guillén play and the online seminar “Tilting at Windmills: Cervantes, Shakespeare, and the Cultural Significance of Don Quixote,” available on YouTube.
The play smashes together the interpolated narrative of Cardenio and Lucinda (also the basis for a possible, now lost, collaboration between Fletcher and Shakespeare) and varied adventures of Quixote and Sancho from Cervantes’ novel. With Guillén’s mastery as an adapter, these fragmented stories come together as a coherent narrative. Even more important—the play is funny, very funny. Quixote’s bluster and wild interpretations, Sancho’s occasional bristling against the knight, the reaction of other characters to Quixote’s flights of fancy, the many and varied ironies and metatheatrical games of the novel—all of it comes across as if it were meant for the stage. Like the novel itself, however, certain things are left to the imagination in this staged reading of theater. The scene where Quixote strips down to swim in shallow water, for instance, as he sets out to cross the Hellespont in his mind, was read as a stage direction. To see the knight of La Mancha stripped of both good sense and armor, you’ll have to wait until the play gets a full production: Don Quixote—naked—in New York? Now, that would be something!